Here at Central Ohio Spine and Joint we get questions concerning diet and nutrition on a daily basis.  We have multiple services centered around nutritional testing.  One Topic we frequently review with our patients is that is DIETARY INFLAMMATION.

When most think of inflammation they think of the result of an injury like an ankle sprain, maybe even associated with the healing process.  In this context we will be discussing the role dietary inflammation plays in disease (systemic inflammation).  Dietary inflammation should be viewed as a key promoter of degenerative diseases, which kills millions of Americans each year.  To put it in prospective, six of the ten leading causes of death in Americans are coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, and chronic liver disease, all of which have been previously described as inflammatory in nature.

“The “anti-inflammatory diet” is named to describe the metabolic effect the diet has on the body. It is not named for a person (The Atkin’s Diet) or for a time in history (The Paleo Diet), or a location in the United States (The South Beach Diet), or a place – sort of (The Zone Diet).”

Dietary inflammation and improper food consumption is a huge issue in today’s culture.  Is it any wonder we are seeing all time high’s in disease rates?  When we consume foods they either create inflammation or they do not, it’s that simple.  Approximately 65% of the American population is either overweight or obese.  It is hard to walk into the grocery store and not see rows upon rows of processed boxed foods.  In a typical American diet only 10% comprises of fruits and vegetables.  So let’s take a look at what makes food inflammatory.

Let’s start by getting a little terminology under our belts.  Omega 6 fatty acids (linoleic acid and arachidonic acid) are PRO inflammatory and stimulate the release of inflammatory mediators into our system when they are consumed.  Omega 3 fatty acids (linolenic) are ANTI inflammatory in nature and are considered essential fatty acids.  I am assuming most have heard the term omega 3s and their associated health benefits.

Fatty Acid Imbalances

Omega 6 versus omega 3 fatty acids and the associated dietary imbalance is actually thought to be the foundation on which the proinflammatory state develops.  The traditional American diet consists of excess omega 6 and a deficient amount of omega 3s and the literature supports this concept in the development of disease.  An optimal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 has to be less than 4:1 as we evolved on a ratio closer to 1:1.  Drumroll…what do you think the common ratio is nowadays in our Western Society?

Anywhere from 10:1 to 40:1 depending on the food consumed!

Omega- 3 Fatty   Acids Omega-6 Fatty   Acids
Most Common Forms EPA, DHA, ALA   acids Linoleic acid   accounts for almost 85 percent of dietary omega 6s.
Most common Food
EPA and DHA-   fatty fish such as salmon, white tuna, mackral, rainbow trout, herring,   halibutALA- ground   flaxseed and flaxseed oil Vegetable oils   (eg- corn, sunflower, safflower, and soy), whole wheat bread

So why do we consume such a dangerous ratio? The average American only consumes a ½ serving of fruits and veggies.  Our diet is centered around processed foods, just take a look around the grocery store.  In order to mass produce these products and give them a shelf life manufacturers choose vegetable oils as a foundation.  It is hard to pick up a box in the store and not read some type of vegetable oil ingredient.  Unfortunately, in mass production and with revenues in mind, these oils are very cheap to use.

The last concept we will cover is why grains inflame.  This obviously has gotten a lot of press lately and is a sensitive subject for most people. Most have spent their entire lives consuming bread, pasta, and cereals and the thought of giving up these foods hits an emotional button for some.

“A goal should be to view eating as a mechanism to fuel the precious vehicle (your body) that conveys you through life.  Remember, you can only trade in your motor vehicle, not your body vehicle.  With that mindset we are less likely to be opposed to making any changes that would benefit our body’s vehicle.”

Our genetic makeup makes us adapted to consume fruits, vegetables, fish, fowl, meat, roots, tubers and nuts.  No, I repeat no chronic diseases are caused by consuming these foods.  On the other hand, grain contains problematic substances that promote inflammation and body acidity.  These substances include gluten, lectin, and phytates.  Also, grains are a low fat food. They contain an elevated ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids.  Like we discussed earlier omega 6s are converted to chemicals that cause inflammation, chronic disease and pain.  I am not going to go through each of these at this time but be on the lookout in the future for articles about gluten, too much to cover in this article. 😉

OK so the moment you all have been waiting for…let’s find out how inflamed we are!

This is a simple survey to take at home that can indicate your inflammation levels. Take a few minutes and fill this out for yourself:

Click here to download the survey   The Inflammation Checklist

(Survey used with permission from – for more information about dietary inflammation check out

I hope I was able to provide a little more insight into why inflammation is bad for our bodies and why our current diet promotes an inflammatory state… so let’s review

-Inflammation is related to 6 of the top 10 disease in our Western Society

-The foods we consume are directly related to either producing a PRO inflammatory state or an ANTI inflammatory state.

-The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids should be around 4:1.  Our typical diet consists of ratios of 10:1 or even 40:1. 

– Omega 6s are converted to chemicals that cause inflammation, chronic disease and pain.

-Processed foods contain large amounts of omega 6 fatty acids or vegetable oils and create dietary inflammation. 

-Grains are PRO inflammatory.  

-Most people have an emotional tie to grains (we will talk about this is another post, but sugar and grains are like cocaine to your brain, creating addiction).

-Grains contains problematic substances that promote inflammation and body acidity.  These substances include gluten, lectin, and phytates.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, I hope it was educational.  If you have any specific questions concerning any aspect of this article please feel free to email me at

Be on the lookout for PART 2- ANTI Inflammatory food choices.